Should you buy the Amazon Smart Plug: is this the right smart plug for you?

The Amazon Smart Plug adds Alexa control to any device, but is it the right option for your needs? We'll take you through it

Amazon Smart Plug
(Image credit: Amazon)

The Amazon Smart plug is Amazon's own way to add smart control via Alexa to any device. Smart plugs are fantastically useful little bits of smart home kit, enabling you to control 'dumb' appliances such as lamps and anything else you can connect up to mains power – they can be turned on and off from your smartphone, or on an automated schedule.

You can get the coffee machine started before you head downstairs, give the impression that someone is home when the house is empty, and plenty more besides. Here we'll be looking at one of the most prominent devices on the market: the Amazon Smart Plug.

What can smart plugs do?

Amazon Smart Plug

(Image credit: Amazon)

If you're shopping for smart home devices, then you might well have seen smart plugs mentioned quite a lot – and maybe not understood exactly what they are and how they work. There are now plenty of manufacturers who make and sell smart plugs, but they all share a common set of features.

First and foremost these smart plugs can be controlled by a companion app on your phone, once they're connected up to a power socket. Many work over a Wi-Fi connection, though some use Bluetooth as well as or instead of Wi-Fi. As a smart plug switches on and off, so does the appliance it's connected to.

Just about every smart plug on the market is also able to work on a schedule, so they can (for example) turn off after a certain number of hours and minutes, or turn on at a particular time of day, and so on. This is where smart plugs can start to become particularly useful as part of a smart home setup.

Add in voice control via Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant, and these simple devices actually have more features and functions than you might think. They're perhaps most often used with lights and lamps, turning 'dumb' devices into 'smart' ones that can then easily integrate with the rest of your smart home setup.

What features does the Amazon Smart Plug have?

Amazon Smart Plug

(Image credit: Amazon)

As you might expect from the Amazon hardware division, the Amazon Smart Plug doesn't go overboard when it comes to what it can do – it sticks to the smart plug basics, which is fine (and smart plugs are pretty basic anyway). The basic functionality is reflected in the affordable price, and this device won't cost you much at all (check out the widgets on this page for the latest deals).

The Amazon Smart Plug works with Alexa of course, and can be configured through the Alexa app. Once it's set up, you can control it with your voice if an Alexa device (like an Amazon Echo) is within earshot; otherwise, you can get at it through the Alexa app on your iPhone or Android device.

You can instantly turn the Amazon Smart Plug on or off – turning a connected fan on or off as the temperature changes, for example – or you can get it to work on a schedule. The Smart Plug can also be part of any routines you set up with Alexa, so it might turn on automatically with several other gadgets when you greet Amazon's digital assistant with a cheerful "good morning" command.

With an inexpensive price point and simple operation, the Amazon Smart Plug is easily one of the best smart plugs around at the moment. It's worth noting its reliance on Alexa though – it won't work with Apple HomeKit or Google Assistant, so it's perhaps not the ideal choice if you want to keep your smart home options open.

What alternative smart plugs are there?

Amazon Smart Plug

(Image credit: Amazon)

As we've already mentioned, you've got a wealth of options when it comes to choosing a smart plug. You can pick up great devices from a number of manufacturers, including the Kasa plugs from TP-Link, and the Hive Active Plug that fits in very neatly with the rest of your HIve devices (as you would expect).

With smart plug features so similar across the board, one of the most important considerations when buying is which smart home ecosystems each plug supports: Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, or something else entirely. You're going to want to pick up a device that works with all your other devices.

The good news is that a lot of companies that make smart home devices (like Amazon) have a smart plug in their range (like the Amazon Smart Plug). There's a Philips Hue smart plug, for example, and an Innr smart plug that will integrate neatly with the Innr smart lights and other similar kit that you might already have set up at home.

Make sure that the smart plug you buy is reasonably priced and one that's going to work nicely with what you already have – so if your smart home is already largely run by Alexa, then the Amazon Smart Plug is a sensible choice. If you think you might need Google Assistant or Apple HomeKit support alongside or instead of Alexa, it's perhaps a better idea to look elsewhere.